Electricity monopoly under fire

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OFFER, the electricity watchdog, has attacked proposals by the Trade and Industry Select Committee to extend the time scale of the regional electricity companies' monopoly over domestic customers as part of a package to save miners' jobs writes Mary Fagan.

Professor Stephen Littlechild, Director General of Offer, told ministers in a letter that the proposals to extend would limit choice and reverse the Government's policy of putting the customer first.

The regional companies have a monopoly over customers using less than one megawatt of electricity. This is to be reduced and eventually abolished to give free choice in supply. However, the Government is considering proposals to extend the franchise to persuade electricity companies to buy extra coal-fired power.

At a conference in London yesterday, Professor Littlechild said that 10,000 schools and hospitals would benefit from lower prices by shopping around for power. 'There is always a need for resources there,' he added.

Retail chains and their customers were also expected to benefit from the reduction in the monopoly, he said. He also demanded details of how the pounds 1bn annual subsidy paid to Nuclear Electric was spent.